As we talked about yesterday, in my post – Self-Diagnosing: Listening to Others – the Internet has really opened up the gateway of information, especially when it comes to medical concerns. From well-known websites like WebMD to being able to reach out to hundreds of thousands of peers who may have experienced similar symptoms, like on the PEGym Forums, we laypeople now have more medical information in our cellphones than a person could ever possibly hope to assimilate.
However, with this information is risks that come with the power to self-diagnose. These risks can lead to not getting timely care, seeking out an incorrect course of treatment, can lead to permanent damage, and can even lead to death. This is why PEGym always recommends talking with a medical professional about any physical concerns you have. Only a medical professional who has properly examined you can offer a proper course of treatment.
Let’s take a look at some of those risks today.
- Incorrectly Self-Diagnosing – Obviously, this is the most common (and can be the most serious) risk. Whether it’s a weird bump or an ache or some other symptom – chances are if you look it up on the Internet, there are going to be a myriad of conditions it could possibly be. And, because your Internet search is dependent not only on a computer algorithm to show you sites it thinks is relative, and the words you use to describe your symptom, there’s even a chance your real condition isn’t even shown in the results (or at least not in the top results most people only read). This incorrect self-diagnosis can lead to – not seeking treatment, taking an incorrect course of action (such as OTC or herbal remedies), exposing others to risk if it’s contagious, etc.. These things can not only be serious, but life-threatening.
- Missing a More Serious Issue – This is probably one of the more scary risks. EXAMPLE: Let’s say you are looking for help with your erection quality. You read lots of information about erectile dysfunction and come to the conclusion that your issues are likely just a sign of aging. You make the decision to start exercising, watch your diet and start doing penis exercises, to help encourage bloodflow to your penis. These are not necessarily bad things to do, but because you didn’t go to the doctor, you didn’t learn that you have a more serious underlying issue also affecting your erections – diabetes. Your self-diagnosis isn’t necessarily incorrect – it’s just incomplete, and this can seriously, negatively impact your overall health, and, in some cases, even be life-threatening.
- Overdiagnosing – If you look up a symptom and see a variety of potential causes, it’s easy to see the most serious one and begin to worry that’s what you have. I’ve fallen victim personally to this. I had a small lump under my armpit. It was painful. I Googled it… it could be cancer! Having just lost my father to cancer, needless to say my anxiety spiked. I immediately went to my doctor, and my blood pressure was through the roof, thanks to the worry. It turned out that it was just a swollen gland and went away 2 days later. Nothing serious at all. If I hadn’t gone to the doctor to get it confirmed that it wasn’t something horrible, I would’ve been stressed for who knows how long – which isn’t healthy!
So, use the Internet as it was truly intended – not to self-diagnose, but to self-educate. Learn about your symptoms and then use that information, along with a medical exam, to decide what the best course of treatment is for you.